NAACP Image Awards

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NAACP Image Awards

Date Observed: February
Location: Los Angeles, California

The NAACP Image Awards is a gala event that recognizes the achievements and contributions of African Americans and other people of color in entertainment and the arts. Honorees, presenters, and performers include celebrities, political and social leaders, and other dignitaries. The event normally takes place in February and is usually televised in March.

Historical Background

In the early days of radio, motion pictures, and television, African Americans had few opportunities to find work in these industries. The few roles that did exist were often stereotypical portrayals of African Americans and did not reflect the true experiences of most people. At the same time, the contributions and talents of African-American entertainers went largely unrecognized by performing arts awards organizations, such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that presents the Oscars.

The NAACP Image Awards were created to reward positive, non-stereotypical representations of African Americans in entertainment and the media. Believing that social norms and beliefs are heavily influenced by images presented in movies, television shows, and popular music, organizers instituted the awards to draw attention to the achievements, successes, and positive portrayals of African Americans in the entertainment industry.

Creation of the Observance

Originally conceived as a fundraising dinner for the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, the awards have become one of the most celebrated events in the African-American community. The first event was produced in 1962 by Sammy Davis Jr. and included a gala dinner and a separate awards ceremony at the Coconut Grove nightclub in Hollywood, California. Many celebrities and political leaders were in attendance, including Sidney Poitier, Berry Gordy Jr., Diana Ross and the Supremes, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the mayor of Los Angeles, and the governor of California. Most of the awards presented the first year were given to white producers and directors who had displayed sensitivity to African-American concerns, and who made efforts to provide more opportunities for African-American entertainers.

The awards soon grew from a local chapter event into one of the largest and most popular national fundraisers for the NAACP. In 1967 the event became officially known as the NAACP Image Awards. Public interest grew along with the event, and in the late 1980s the awards ceremony began to be filmed so that it could be televised later. For several years, the Image Awards aired in a late-night time slot on the NBC network. The Los Angeles chapter continued to produce the event until 1991 when the national NAACP organization took over. In 1996, the awards moved to a prime time slot on the Fox network. The sale of tickets to the awards events, paid advertising on the television broadcast, and donations from corporate sponsors raises more than a million dollars for the NAACP each year. Beyond the importance of the event as a fundraiser, the NAACP Image Awards are valued for their recognition of positive public images of African Americans.


Several events are now held each year as part of the NAACP Image Awards. An invitation-only luncheon is held for nominees a few weeks before the awards ceremony. The awards ceremony weekend includes a celebrity golf game, and pre-show gala, a pre-show brunch, the awards ceremony itself, and a post-show gala.

Awards are given in more than 40 competitive categories covering motion pictures, television, music, and literature. Honorary awards are also given to acknowledge special achievements, public service, and contributions to racial equality. The Chairman's Award recognizes the dignified representation of people of color, and the Corporate Award acknowledges companies that make commitments to diversity. The NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame celebrates the lifetime career achievements of notable individuals. The President's Award is given to those who work to further the causes of civil rights. Past President's Award recipients include former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Contact and Web Site

4929 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 310 Los Angeles, CA 90010 323-938-5268

Further Reading

Brown, Luther. "The Image Awards Turn 30." The New Crisis, December 1998. . Emmons, Natasha. "Same Themes, New Dreams." Variety, February 23, 2006. . Joiner, Lottie L. "NAACP Honors the Arts." The Crisis, May/June 2003. http://www Phillips, Braden. "A Fresh Face: Revamp Hopes to TV Aud's, Org's Vision." Variety, March 1, 2001. VR1 117794483.
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007

NAACP Image Awards

Early March
The NAACP Image Awards is an annual event held in March at a gala ceremony in Los Angeles that is broadcast during prime time on the Fox Television Network. The awards are presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the long-established American civil rights organization. The awards recognize exceptional performances and achievements in the arts by people of color. They also honor outstanding champions of social justice. The 36 award categories include music, television, motion pictures, and literature, in addition to such honorary awards as the Chairman's Award, the President's Award, and the Image Awards Hall of Fame. Past winners form a roll call of exceptional achievers, from Stevie Wonder to Barak Obama.
The awards were established by the Beverly Hills/Holly ­ wood branch of the NAACP in 1967, at the peak of civil-rights activism in the United States. Troubled by the generally negative portrayal of the black experience in popular media, the chapter founded the awards to honor the best actors, writers, producers, and directors of color, and to recognize those in the entertainment industry who supported them. The NAACP has long been involved in the struggle for greater and more positive representation of African Americans in popular media, beginning with a protest of the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, by D.W. Griffiths.
NAACP Image Awards
4929 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 310
Los Angeles, CA 90010
323-938-5268; fax: 323-938-5045
AAH-2007, p. 325
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
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